Students meet their guides to the world of work

Published 03 June 2008

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Fourteen undergraduate women at the University of New England have embarked on a five-month program that will introduce them to the realities of professional life in government administration, business, and law.

Last Friday at UNE, the students met the people who are to be their mentors in the “Lucy” program.

The Lucy Mentoring Program, established in 2004 by the Office for Women within the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, aims to prepare women students for their entry into professional life in the world of business and law. It matches each participating student with a mentor who is a working professional in either the public or the private sector.

Airlie Bell, a UNE Careers Adviser who is one of the coordinators of the program at UNE, explained that it was not a “work experience” program as such, but rather “an introduction to the realities of some quite sophisticated work environments”.

“Some of the mentors have particular projects that they will work through with their students,” Ms Bell said. “Some will enable their students to gain insight into the workings of the profession by attending meetings in the workplace, and others are planning to take their students with them on business trips.”

As well as spending 35 hours with their mentor, the students will attend professional-development meetings with other “Lucy” students and with staff of UNE Student Assist. The program will conclude on the 31st of October with a formal “graduation” event attended by officials of the University and the Premier’s Department, during which the students will report on their “Lucy” experiences.

The 11 mentors in the UNE “Lucy” program are from local offices of State Government departments and agencies, legal and accounting firms, and the University itself. They are Maureen Chapman and Nickie Murcell (NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet), Adam Blakester (Change Strategist, Paradigm Play), Simon Smith (Department of Environment and Climate Change), Melissa McLeod (Rural Lands Protection Board), Judith Manning (Department of Community Services), Peter Sniekers (Department of State and Regional Development), Jack Ritchie (Arts North West), Kay Hempsall (UNE), Fiona Miron (Wicklow Lawyers) and Annie McNeilly (Forsyths Chartered Accountants).

Kate Parker, Acting Assistant Director of the Office for Women, travelled from Sydney to Armidale for last Friday’s official launch of the Lucy Mentoring Program at UNE. Other official guests at the launch included the University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Eve Woodberry, and the Transitional Head of the School of Business, Economics and Public Policy, Professor Alison Sheridan.

Ms Bell said the “Lucy” program was designed “to inspire and motivate women students about opportunities for employment in business and law, and to assist them in building professional networks both inside and outside the region”. UNE has joined the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales, Western Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong in the program, which has already increased employment opportunities for more than 240 women students across the State.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows third-year commerce student Deborah Walls (right) with her mentor, Kay Hempsall (UNE’s Organisational Development Manager).